A World of Strongmen

A World of Strongmen

Photo: Duterte and Putin: archetypal ‘strongmen’. by by Пресс-служба Президента России http://www.kremlin.ru

A year ago on the blog on the Yes Facebook page I encouraged[1] readers to enjoy 2016 while it lasted[2] because 2017 could be a world of President Putin, President Trump and President Le Penn. We didn’t enjoy 2016 and the future is looking even grimmer[3] than I quipped[4]. Indeed[5], what is emerging is a world of strongmen.

For three decades we have seen democracy sweeping across[6] the world; first in the former[7] Communist world, then in Latin America and then in much of Africa. When the Arab Spring erupted it seemed that democracy was unstoppable. Oh, how innocent we were! In recent years many of the world’s democracies have been hollowed out[8], not only the new ones but even some of the more established democratic nations.

The new model seems to be the strongman; a populist leader with a reputation for getting things done[9]. He is nationalist and anti-intellectual, has a vaguely traditionalist religious agenda and a contempt[10] for the rule of law[11] – especially international law. Yes, I’m referring to Trump but he is just[12] the latest in a long list of strongmen. Putin, Netanyahu, Modi and Erdogan are better established examples (in Russia, Israel, India and Turkey, respectively). An extreme case is Duterte in the Philippines, an elected president who can openly boast about[13] having personally murdered people!

The US case might be a bit worrying but these things don’t happen in Europe, right? Maybe not15 in the large[14] western European nations yet[15] but Orbán in Hungary is an archetypal strongman. “Democracy, human rights and the rule of law11 are in danger in Poland” too – not my words, the words of a declaration from the European Parliament. There the nationalist-religious government is led by[16] a woman (it’s not all about testosterone).

Of the 116 countries that claim to be[17] democratic, only 20 are full democracies (with just[18] 8.9% of the world’s population) according to the Democracy Index. Genuine democracy is not just18 about voting every four years; the rule of law11, an independent judiciary[19], freedom of speech, freedom of the press[20] are just as[21] important. Those institutions are under threat[22] in the majority of formally democratic countries.

2017 could see the new model succeed in France and the Netherlands[23], which might actually[24] wake us all up[25] to the dangers of strongman democracy. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Happy 2017!

For more footnoted texts, visit https://www.yes-mag.com

[1] to encourage – incite

[2] while it lasted – (in this case) during this year

[3] grimmermore depressing, more sombre

[4] to quip – joke

[5] indeed – (emphatic) in fact

[6] to sweep across (sweep-swept-swept) – propagate across, proliferate around

[7] former – ex-

[8] to hollow sth. outempty the contents of sth. so that it has no real substance

[9] to get things done (get-got-got) – achieve results

[10] contempt – disdain

[11] the rule of law – the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws

[12] just – (in this case) simply

[13] to boast about – be proud of, take pride in

[14] large – (false friend) big

[15] not… yet – still not

[16] is led by – (in this case) has a Prime Minister who is

[17] claim to be – declare that they are

[18] just – (in this case) only

[19] judiciary – judicial authorities, judges

[20] the press – the media, newspapers and other sources of information

[21] just asequally

[22] under threat – in danger

[23] the NetherlandsHolland

[24] actually – (false friend) really

[25] to wake sb. up (wake-woke-woken) – cause sb. to react

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